Hitman: Absolution Xbox 360 Review
Publisher: Square Enix Developer: IO Interactive Genre: Stealth Players: 1
Age Rating: 18+ Other console/handheld formats: PS3
It’s been over six years since Agent 47, the bald Hitman with a barcode on his head, last went on a killing spree and, in the intervening years since, the game’s industry has changed enormously. So it hardly comes as a surprise that Hitman: Absolution marks somewhat of a fresh direction for IO Interactive’s stealthy series.
For starters, there’s more of an emphasis on telling a story, and for a series that previously wasn’t concerned much with doing so, such a change certainly isn’t going to sit well with a lot of fans. Interestingly, the first mission sees 47 tasked with taking out his longstanding handler Diana Burnwood, who as she lies dying, requests 47 to prevent Victoria, a teenage girl, from being captured by the agency, and it’s up to 47 to find out why they consider her to be so valuable. The more substantial story adds little of note to the game, though it’s largely functional enough and works for adding context to your actions.
There’s also a controversial new Instinct ability, of which by holding down a button allows you to see enemies through walls and the route that they’ll take, as well as to easily pick out objects you can interact with throughout the environment. It can also be used in combat situations to target multiple enemies to swiftly take them out in Splinter Cell: Conviction like fashion and, when wearing disguises, you can use it to fool others. The harder difficulty levels, however, offer an experience that is more in line with earlier games in the series.
As always, the disguises allow you to hide in plain sight, though function a little differently this time around, with those wearing the same clothes as you becoming suspicious as you draw closer to them, though this can be negated by keeping your distance, hiding or using instinct to hide 47’s cold face.
The game is powered by the lovely new Glacier2 engine, though this comes at a cost, with the occasional immersion breaking stutter perhaps being a sign that the engine is pushing the current consoles just that little too far. A more disappointing sacrifice for series fans, however, is the fact that many stages are split into small chunks, of which is sure to disappoint those that are looking for the wider open levels of previous entries in the series, though on the good side we do get a game that is both beautiful and gritty, whilst the engine is able to render impressively dense crowds, which has allowed IO to come up with some interesting situations.
The targets themselves can be killed in all manner of ways, from simply just shooting them in the heads or garrotting them with 47’s signature fibre wire. As always, however, the true satisfaction comes from the more elaborate methods that require more preparation and precision to execute, for instance crushing your target with a statue, poisoning their food or drink, tampering with electronics to electrocute them and so on. It has to be said, though, that some are a bit too silly and out of place in such a grim game, with one notable instance being the opportunity for 47 to don a mask and partake in a wrestling match against his target.
If things go a bit awry in your efforts and devolve into an all out gunfight, Hitman: Absolution is for what is, at heart, a stealth game, a confidently executed shooter with guns that have good kick, grisly death animations, and a perfectly serviceable cover system has also been implemented too.
There’s a scoring system that punishes detection, killing, trespassing and largely any other higher profile actions. More sneaky play such as hiding bodies, quietly or craftily taking out your targets and such will reward you with points, encouraging you to replay levels and perfect them, as well as to figure out the other methods of killing your targets and all the multiple routes that are on offer.
There’s also evidence for you to find and challenges that grant replay value to the game; completing a level without using disguises for example, or killing targets in certain ways, donning certain outfits, and even more action focused actions are sometimes rewarded.
The difficulties also offer wildly different experiences, with the harder modes removing the radar and other visual aids. Instinct no longer highlights objects of interest and doesn’t recharge, whilst more enemies are placed around the levels, making your objectives harder to accomplish.
Rather than the limited manual saves that previous games granted you, as a contrast Hitman: Absolution has checkpoints placed in certain areas, which to activate you must trigger manually. It’s a flawed system, however, as if you die or reload, enemies taken out prior to activating the checkpoint will respawn.
The Contracts mode meanwhile allows you to create your own hits and upload them to challenge others. Creation is carried out in an unusual fashion: you wander about in the existing levels as 47, selecting targets and the clothes you’re wearing and the method you go about killing them determines objectives for others in your finished level, so for instance if you’re dressed as a policeman and take out your selected target with the fibre wire, anyone else that plays your finished stage is granted bonuses for doing the same thing. It’s not the most comprehensive of creation tools, but is nevertheless a nice addition, which adds further to the already impressive longevity of the game.
With Hitman: Absolution, IO Interactive has tried to pique the interest of the mainstream gamer. True, the new engine has resulted in some unfortunate sacrifices, but this is still one impressive looking game. All in all, this Hitman game is not going to please all of the existing series fans, but it does still retain much of the facets that made the series such a unique and special one in the first place.